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Reentry Resource Center - New York

Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Past Resources of the Week

ROTW: The Edge of Stigma: An Experimental Audit of the Effects of Low-Level Criminal Records on Employment

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Even low-level criminal records, including disorderly conduct arrests, can harm employment prospects, finds a study by Christopher Uggen and co-investigators in the American Society of Criminology. Extensive research has revealed stark discrimination against people with felony-level prison records, particularly African Americans, but relatively few studies have explored whether this discrimination extends to low-level records. In “The Edge of Stigma: An Experimental Audit of the Effects of Low-Level Criminal Records on Employment,” the researchers sent matched pairs of African-American and white men to apply for a total of 300 entry-level jobs in Minnesota between 2007 and 2008. One of each pair had a sole arrest on their record for disorderly conduct. Those without arrests were approximately 4% more likely to get a callback in each racial group. White men with a low-level record received a callback rate approximately 11% higher than African-American males with no record.
While the arrest record did not harm candidates’ prospects as a felony record might have, the authors noted that discrediting those with arrest records disproportionately harms African-American jobseekers, as 49% of African-American men are arrested at least once before the age of 23, compared to 38% of white men. Uggen et al. recommend that policymakers reconsider which records can be made available to the public and the duration for which records are available.

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